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Industry Insights

Grinberg: DWC Wants Your In-Person Suggestions on Improving the System

  • State: California

What are your plans for right after Thanksgiving? Do you plan on sharpening your pitchforks? Are you going to be re-binding and re-oiling your torches? Do you plan to grumble vague angry sounds as you coalesce into an unruly mob?

Gregory Grinberg

Gregory Grinberg

Well, so long as you promise that the answer to all of these is an honest “no,” I can report to you that the Department of Workers’ Compensation is holding an in-person hearing at 10 a.m. on Dec. 6.

As you can see in this announcement all stakeholders, “insurers, attorneys, employers, injured workers and health care providers” are invited to share their thoughts on how to improve all aspects of the workers’ compensation system.

My first suggestion: Stop making in-person the default. Travel in urban areas has become extremely tolling on the time budget when going by car and exceedingly dangerous when traveling by public transit. Remote hearings, depositions, trials and town halls are well within the scope of feasibility and would be a good start to providing accessibility to the community. 

My office is just south of San Francisco, but there are countless stakeholders all over the state for whom Oakland is not realistically accessible.

What are your suggestions for improving the workers’ compensation system?

Mind you, the DWC is not going to be able to implement any rule or regulation contrary to the Labor Code, so if your suggestion is to ban cumulative traumas or provide “pain and suffering” damages in workers’ comp, you’re probably barking up the wrong proverbial tree.

I would like to see a refresh on all forms: minutes of hearing, order approving compromise and release, pre-trial conference statement, stipulations, etc.

I would also like the walkthroughs to move back to remote appearance and the trials to be set to default remote hearings, absent good cause to have the trial in person.

As a defense attorney who is referred walkthroughs of settlement paperwork all over the state, it would be nice to have uniform rules. For example, some venues put a cap on how many walkthroughs will be heard on a particular morning. I can find no authority for such a limitation in the Labor Code of the rules and regulations. Others want a waiver of the right to a qualified medical evaluator in writing, while some are satisfied with a notice of the right to a QME.

Another improvement I would like to see is more stringent enforcement of the rules requiring parties to meet and confer BEFORE a hearing. There is already such a requirement prior to filing a declaration of readiness and there is a pandemic-era rule requiring such efforts before a mandatory settlement conference. It is rare enough that I see these requirements enforced, and I would like to see more of it.

All these suggestions, though solid gold if you ask the author to evaluate them, will fall on deaf ears unless your I brave the traffic, the violent crime and the car break-ins to deliver them in a five-minute burst of oratory.

What do you say? Do you plan on attending and making your voices heard?

Gregory Grinberg is managing partner of Gale, Sutow & Associates’ S.F. Bay South office and a certified specialist in workers’ compensation law. This post is reprinted with permission from Grinberg’s WCDefenseCA blog.

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